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Mining Your Experiences for that Article or Book

Chances are good that the next article or book you read is based on the author's experience. In each publication, the author doesn't just relate his or her experience, but explains the benefits that he or she derived from it, such as lessons, suggestions and concepts.

So, if you are looking for something to write about, consider what has been happening to you lately, and how you have responded. For example, have you successfully resolved a situation with an effectively written complaint letter, been offered a job as the result of a great resume, began a successful home business, built something practically from scratch, become more resilient and successful after being fired? All of these experiences have potential for saleable articles and books.

But how do you start? Begin by taking inventory of all of your recent experiences. Next to each experience, write down an audience who might benefit, such as students, salespeople, jobseekers, entrepreneurs, or parents. Most likely, if your chosen audience is likely to have a similar experience, it would be an ideal audience. But don't stop there! List other possible audiences, such as investors, and perhaps a reason or two for their interest in your article or book.

Once you've chosen your audience and experience, it's time to milk that experience. For example, what mistakes can you help your audience avoid? What have you done successfully that can be duplicated by your audience(s)? What lessons did you learn and can share with your audience(s)? Remember that helping others to satisfy basic needs, such as the need for love and security, can suggest other directions and help you to put a new spin on common topics.

If your experience includes writing successful business letters, for example, you may have just enough material for an article. On the other hand, if you wish to explain in steps how to recover and prosper from a recent job loss, you may have plenty of material for a book!

The next step involves writing out your experience in more detail, from beginning to end. Doing this will give you material to refer to as well as select certain details from. How did you feel at the time? What were your initial reactions? How were others affected? What was the outcome? Would you do the same thing in a similar situation or not, and why?

If you have enough material for an article, create a working title, write a short introduction that may or may not include an anecdote, relate your experience and conclude with the lessons learned. Remember to check the magazine that you wish to write for and look at its articles, paying attention to their topics, introductions and content.

On the other hand, if you have enough material for a book, create a working title and a list of ten or more chapter descriptions. Remember that each double-spaced, typewritten chapter should consist of 15-20 or more pages. When you have done this, you will have an outline of your book. It might also be a good idea to decide how your book stands out from other published books on the same topic.

As in other writing, describing your experiences and explaining the lessons learned from them may take a little practice and time. But you are more likely to find a plethora of material to write about and see quicker results once you've submitted your work. Good luck in all of your efforts!

Dorothy Zjawin's published works have all been based on her experience as a teacher and college professor. She has included more ideas in her website at

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